Monday, September 26, 2016


Back in the 1980’s on one of my first trips to France I was invited to give a talk at the Pompidou Centre in Paris by an outfit called Les Philosophes de la Nature the brain child of  a charismatic character called Jean Dubuis, a scientist by profession but also an esoteric teacher with an emphasis on alchemy in theory and practice. I was quite amazed by what I saw and heard and regretted that my French at that time was not quite equal to learning all I would have liked.

Jean Dubuis has since passed on at the age of 90 but I have heard that much of his work, translated into English, has just been made available free on the internet courtesy of an organisation called Portae Lucis.

For details go to

Tuesday, September 20, 2016


The cabinet maker’s story

Henri Ravier was a 28 year old cabinet maker and joiner in 1870 when he was called to measure up a coffin for a seven year old boy. As he bustled about with his mate in the courtyard a couple of doctors emerged from the house discussing the death certificate.  

“Nothing could have been done to save the child.”

“Not even if we’d been called earlier. Do you agree with my diagnosis of meningitis?”

“I’m sure you’re right.”

“Anyway, the little glass of eau-de-vie that father Chapas gave us wasn’t bad was it!”

And so without further thought to child or grieving parents they left. No sooner had they done so than two young men hurried up.

“It took ages to find you. He must be dead by now. The doctor said he’d been in a coma. Do you know what that is?”

“It’s nothing, nothing! But we must hurry!”

They knocked at the door and a man opened up who obviously knew them.  

“Monsieur Claude, we’ve just heard the news and have come to offer our condolences.”

“That’s very good of you, Nizier. Come on in. He’s on the bed.”

Nizier Philippe also greeted Madame Chapas, who did not speak.

They mounted the stairs.  The mother passed them in the passageway and opened the bedroom door for them.

The 21 year old Nizier Philippe crossed himself and indicated the others to sit.  Then he presented Madame Chapas with a strange question:

“Are you willing to give me your son now?”

She answered “Yes” almost automatically.

Nizier stood before the child’s bed in contemplation for a few moments, and then said in a clear voice: “Jean, I bring  your soul back to you!”

Amazingly, the chalk white face of the body began to regain colour,  looked up at Nizier Philippe, and smiled.

The strange question Philippe directed at the child’s mother harked back a few years to when she had asked his help when her husband fell ill. On that occasion he had simply said “Go home and make him some soup and he will be all right.” And so it had occurred. But when asked how much she owed him he replied: “Nothing, but you can give me your son if I ask for him.” An enigmatic remark, all the more strange coming from a young Nizier Philippe who could have been no more than a teenager at the time.

No more was said until little Jean Chapas grew up. Like his father and grandfather before him, he sought the life of a waterman on the great rivers of the Rhône and  Saône. But having passed the necessary examinations – he would then have been aged about 20 and the year 1883 –  his mother received a message from Monsieur Philippe: “Tell your son to come and see me tomorrow, I need him.”

The informal apprenticeship he had thus begun as a spiritual healer was not an easy one. The boy put himself completely at the disposal of Monsieur Philippe but the first day passed with nothing for him to do. The same thing happened next day. Then on the third day he was sent on a few errands, to buy tobacco, some postage stamps, and deliver a prescription. Then little by little he was admitted to minor jobs at public meetings.

For several years he diligently performed all the tasks set him by Monsieur Philippe, some of which involved some kind of testing.  One day, for instance, Monsieur Philippe received word from a lady who was very upset by the loss of her hair. He told Jean Chapas to buy some lotion at a pharmacy and take it to her, and then meet him at a café where he would be waiting.

Jean Chapas found on his arrival that the woman was in complete despair and threatening to throw herself from the sixth floor of the building. For a whole hour he tried to reason with her, far beyond the time fixed for meeting Monsieur Philippe. Eventually he arrived, very late, to find his master still there, smoking his pipe but frowning heavily. Jean Chapas tried to explain what had happened but Monsieur Philippe cut him short and reprimanded him. He should have realised it would have been quite easy for him to have stopped the woman’s hysterics from a distance if he had been informed of them. So...“When I give you a time to meet me, be there!”

Eventually Monsieur Philippe, in the presence of his girl friend, gave him a kind of rosary he had fashioned, a cord full of knots, with the instruction “Take this for an hour each day to your room; and when you reach this knot here, you will be in the presence of the Holy Spirit.”  Presumably he did so, but he never spoke about it to anyone.

Eventually, in February 1894, after a decade of gradually increasing responsibility, Monsieur Philippe presented him at a public meeting with the words, “From now on Monsieur Chapas is charged to do what I have done up to now ...We are fishermen come to fish for those that would escape”. And the following year he announced that “from now on great powers are granted to Monsieur Chapas. Whom, however, he always referred to his as“the corporal!”  By all accounts – no light rank!

From Thursday 13th December 1894, Henri Ravier began to fulfil his mission of taking notes of  meetings and carried on through until 31st March 1903. They are not as comprehensive or systematic we might wish but the random jottings of a retired carpenter and joiner. There are about a hundred of them altogether, the first taken at typical public meetings but later moving on to events at practitioner classes laid on at the recently founded School of Magnetism. His sense of their importance is however revealed by his referring to himself as Jean-Baptiste Ravier.  He was one of a growing band who tended to regard Maïtre Philippe as a second coming of Christ.  Not a view that was shared by the man himself – although he had occasional apparent lapses as when he reportedly said that it had taken him several years to find a mother and father who had the single forenames of Marie and Joseph. I suspect a certain sense of irony in his make-up. But raising people from the dead was not in the gift of any old spiritual healer! And Jean Chapas died a second time in the typhoid fever epidemic of 1899 and was once again resuscitated by Nizier Philippe after a death certificate had been issued. Which led Jean Chapas, who also had an ironic sense of humour, to refer to himself ever after as “a dead man on leave”.

After a lifetime of continuing healing ministry, increasingly haunted by precognition of the coming 2nd World War, he eventually died a third and last time in September 1932, whilst fishing beside the Rhône. His master, also a keen fisherman,  had once predicted “Jean, you will just have time to get your coat and rod and follow me.” He arguably chose a good time to do it as the Holocaust gathered strength in Europe!

References: Confirmation de l’Évangile par les actes et les paroles de Maïtre Philippe de Lyon by Jean-Baptiste Ravier (Le Mercure Dauphinois 2005) and Vie et Enseignement de Jean Chapas, le disciple de Maïtre Philippe de Lyon by Philippe Collin (Le Mercure Dauphinoise 2006).

Thursday, September 08, 2016


The Professor’s dilemma

An interesting note in a later edition of a biography of Maïtre Philippe by Papus’ son Philippe Encausse contains an account of an attempted validation of a miraculous healing. It involved  three doctors – a Professor Brouardel and Drs. Emmanuel Lalande and Gérard Encausse.

“The commission went to the house in la rue Tête d’Or where the thaumaturge worked, where there was the usual crowd. Professor Brouardel introduced himself and said:

‘It appears that you perform miracles sir. Well here we are, two colleagues and myself, ready to witness the fact...’

Philippe shrugged his shoulders. This kind of demonstration did not greatly interest him, but he agreed to do what they asked. He indicated the sick who were present and said ‘Choose any one you like...’

The commission put on the rostrum an enormous hydroptic who appeared to be at her last extremity. Her legs were like pillars, her torso like a tower and her arms like prize marrows, the whole on the point of bursting.

 ‘Can you see her all right’  Philippe asked the commission.

On their assent he said ‘There you are. It’s done!’

Her skirt had fallen around her ankles and there she stood, acutely embarrassed but thin and cured. There was not a single drop of liquid on the platform or anywhere else. A miracle? There was no other word for it. A miracle in all its incomprehensible simplicity.

Doctors Encausse and Lalande  began to prepare a statement on how they had examined the patient before and after, not taken their eyes off her for a second, and had witnessed her cure, of a kind that was not unusual where Monsieur Philippe was concerned. Both signed, but Professor Brouardel, without denying what he had seen (which would have been difficult in the circumstances!) refused to add his signature on the grounds that ‘he could not understand what had happened...’

With attitudes such as this, it is hardly surprising that Monsieur Philippe found it difficult to  obtain any official recognition of his powers. Although it should be said that Professor Brouardel had put himself into a vulnerable position in even agreeing to take part in this event, in that both his medical colleagues were committed supporters of Monsieur Philippe, so it is doubtful if much official credence would have been granted to their evidence even if the Professor had signed the document with his own blood! Whatever the witness of the ‘unqualified’ crowd who had gathered there, to say nothing of the patient herself.

Apart from Dr. Encausse’s track record as an occult populariser, Dr Lalande was a close relative of Monsieur Philippe, having married his daughter Victoire. Born at the end of 1868 he had turned up in Paris as a medical student in 1887 and become a member of  Papus’ circle, choosing the pen name of Marc Haven from the same source as Papus, the Nuctemeron of Apollonius of Tyana as quoted by Eliphas Levi (Haven being the name of the spirit of Dignity – or, perhaps better – ‘gravitas’.) Papus encouraged him to develop an interest in homeopathy and alchemy and in 1893 he became a member of the supreme council of the Ordre Kabbalistique de la Rose+Croix. He qualified as a doctor of medicine in 1896 with a treatise on the unlikely subject of the medieval alchemical doctor Arnaud de Villeneuve.

He had even met Maïtre Philippe a little before Papus, who before venturing to Lyons himself to meet his recent apparent inner plane antagonist, {see Sons of Hermes 22}, asked Emmanuel Lalande to go down first and report back. Which his young colleague did – an event that completely changed his life!

By September 1897 he had married Philippe’s daughter Victoire and found a position specialising in homeopathy at a local hospital. Then, as a family member, well qualified medically and esoterically, he formed a close partnership with Monsieur Philippe in his pharmacological enterprises, not only in their research and manufacture but their commercial exploitation.

It has to be said that he seemed somewhat bewildered by all this at first. In a letter to Papus he describes how the programme of laboratory work, even with a couple of assistants, was very hard, neither a bed of roses nor a sinecure. It was impossible to distinguish between good or bad results, and he just had to hope that he did not appear too much like an ignorant pig. “Beyond which, embracing buddhism, catholicism, anticlericalism, or christianity appears like a comedy of bumbling ignorance!”

An official report of one of their places of work describes a vast room, or laboratory, divided in two by a brick wall, in which, along with other bizarre or disparate objects were to be found  a vast furnace, alembics, retorts, carboys half filled with an unknown liquid, an electric grinder to reduce horns of cattle, bones, etc. to powder, from which a liquor called ‘heliozine’ was prepared, regarded by Philippe as an infallible panacea – especially against syphilis. It was also called ‘keratine serum’ and contained what he saw as “the angel who fought against major illnesses.”

Whether he invented it or followed an ancient recipe is not known but it involved at times someone watching day and night over an immense autoclave (a device for steam sterilisation at high temperatures and pressures). Some scattered details of this work are given in Lumière blanche (White Light) the memoirs of Marie Lalande – Marc Haven’s second wife after the death of Victoire in 1904. And Haven once remarked that success in preparation may well have required Monsieur Philippe’s personal involvement at some point.

Apart from this Maïtre Philippe continued with his apparently miraculous healing work, which could, on occasion, include local control of the weather!  Unexplainable in scientific terms it may have been, but it also put into the shade anything produced by the magical fraternity. Who seemed to take it all in good part however! It even pushed them, in various degrees, some completely, towards a mystical rather than a magical approach to spiritual dynamics.

We find therefore a strange divide in the approach, attitude and methods of Maïtre Philippe. On the one hand demanding a detailed scientific process and the other an uncompromising  religious faith. It is hardly any wonder that both scientific and esoteric worlds found it difficult to cope with him.

Marc Haven later wrote a book that compared him to the 18th century wonder worker Count Cagliostro: Le Maïtre Inconnu Cagliostro (The Unknown Master Cagliostro), sub-titled “an historical and critical study of High Magic,” seeking why each was regarded either as an anarchic charlatan or as divinely ordained and inspired. A recent work in English also worthy of mention is The Masonic Magician – the Life and Death of Count Cagliostro and his Egyptian Rite, by Philippa Faulks and Robert L. D. Cooper. (Watkins, 2008).

Monday, September 05, 2016




Such has been the interest in the extracts from Dion Fortune we used as reminders leading up to the coming Glastonbury seminar on 24th September that it would be churlish not to include this Addendum to her thoughts on the starry wisdom, taken from the same source.

The Tree and its traditional interpretation are very old. Evolution has moved on since the days when the symbolism of the Tree was established in the form in which it has come down to us, and three new planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, have been added to our experience of the solar system. It is significant to note that on the supernal level of the Tree are three Sephiroth, Daath, Chokmah, Kether, to which no planets are assigned. Exactly how these three newly discovered planets should be attributed to these three vacant Sephiroth is a matter of opinion in the absence of authority, and a great deal of experimental astrology will have to be done before the evidence necessary for a decision will have been gathered together. The most useful guidance known to me is afforded by the descriptions of these planets given by the well known American writer, Dane Rudhyar in his most valuable book ‘New Dimensions for New Men’. He does not, however, appear to be acquainted with the Tree of Life, so does not equate his system of astrology with its symbolism.

We may observe, however, that the planets are placed by tradition on the Tree in the order of their proximity to the Sun, Mercury, the nearest, being at the lower end of the range, and Saturn, the furthest, at the higher end; the Sephiroth left over at either end of the scale being filled in respectively by attributing them to Earth and the Moon and to the Zodiac and Space. The attribution of the Ninth and Tenth Sephiroth to the Moon and Earth respectively will be seen to be sound symbolism when we come to examine their significance in the Microcosm, which is man. If we carry the policy of the ancients a step further in assigning the planets to the Sephiroth in the order of their distance from the Sun, we shall attribute Uranus to Chokmah and Neptune to Kether. The nature of Uranus, as described by Dane Rudhyar, fits well on Chokmah, functioning in polarity with Binah, but traditionally Uranus is a space-god, and as such would naturally be attributed to Kether, nor is traditional symbolism lightly to be ignored. According to such symbolism, however, Neptune is the sea-god, and among the titles of Binah is that of ‘The Great Sea’. Nonetheless Binah is traditionally assigned to Saturn, and the symbolism works so well that the attribution can hardly be questioned. On the other hand, Neptune, though the Lord of Illusion in his lower aspect, and as such an infortune, is, according to Dane Rudhyar, the Lord of Ecstacy in his higher aspect, and the supreme ecstasy of Divine Union is given as the Spiritual Experience of Kether in the ‘Golden Dawn’ system.

Pluto is called by Dane Rudhyar the Sower of Celestial Seed, and Max Heindel in his system of esoteric astrology names him as the ruler of the subconscious levels of the mind. Astronomers have queried whether the comparatively small and very remote Pluto really derives from the Solar Nebula at all, or may have been drawn into its sphere of influence from outer space. All this fits well enough with the Qabalistic conception of Daath as a Sephirah on another plane of manifestation, as was taught by the ancient Qabalists, or as consciousness, as was taught in the ‘Golden Dawn’ in the days when I knew it. Those days were prior to the time when Freud’s doctrine of the unconscious mind had become a household word, and I think we should do no violence to the spirit of either Freud or the Qabalists if we equated Daath with subconsciousness instead of consciousness, for it is obvious that consciousness at such a primitive level as that of the Supernal Triad could hardly equate with what we know as consciousness today, but rather with what is for modern man subconsciousness.

I therefore give my vote for the attribution of Uranus to Chokmah, where its dynamic nature fits well as the opposite number of the static, feminine Binah, the Giver of Form, for the attribution of Neptune, Giver of Ecstasy, to Kether, the place where the vision of God face to face is seen*, and of the mysterious Pluto, ruler of the subconscious mind and Sower of Celestial Seed, to the equally mysterious Daath, wherein occurs the dawn of mind and the beginnings of the archetypal man, whose symbol is the five-pointed Star, its apex resting on Daath, its lower limbs on Netzach and Hod. The above attributions are only a matter of opinion, and I stand subject to correction, but they seem to me the most probably in the light of our present knowledge, though that is admittedly limited. If students will compare what I have to say in my ‘Mystical Qabalah’ with what Dane Rudhyar has to say in his ‘New Mansions for New Men’, they will find such data as is available and be able to try their own hand at team-making. It should be remembered, however, that all authority in occultism is not vested in tradition; that it is a living and growing system, and that there is no intrinsic reason why the present age, which is the dawn of a new epoch, should not produce seers of as great stature as those of old time, indeed of greater, for each one stands on the shoulders of his predecessors.

*Actually ‘Union with God’ as previously mentioned in paragraph 2 but the point remains valid. G.K.

Thursday, September 01, 2016


The Martinist Order or l’Ordre Martiniste

Despite their close collaboration there were major differences of principle and practice between Maître Philippe and Papus. Apart from Nizier Philippe’s rejection of ‘animal magnetism’ as a curative agent, as opposed to Papus’ research into it, Papus maintained a keen interest in  initiatory societies and in particular with the possibilities of a revived Martinism. Philippe, on the other hand, tended to regard initiatory grades (real or imagined) as vehicles of   personal pride, as indeed they can well be. As Israel Regardie once remarked, whoever claims to be an adept is hardly likely to be one!

Martinism had its immediate origins in the philosophy and practice of Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin  (1743-1803) who had been a student of Martines de Pasqually, founder of a group called l’Ordre des Chevaliers-Elus Cohens de l’Universe  (Order of the Elect Priest-Knights of the Universe). There were many such groups in those days it should be said, covering a broad field from social through political to esoteric.

After Pasqually’s death in 1772 Saint-Martin felt it incumbent upon him to try to continue the work, at the same time modifying some of Pasqually’s ideas and methods, which he found somewhat demanding and complicated.

As Papus later put it: “According to the account of Saint-Martin himself, the master gathered his disciples in a room, no doubt purified by a previous operation, traced a circle in the centre and wrote in Hebrew letters within it the names of angels and appropriate divine names. These preparations astonished the young disciple to the extent that he cried ‘Do we need to do all this to contact God?’

Nonetheless he had no cause to regret these arrangements,  for communication was made with ‘psychic Beings’ giving startling proofs of the reality of their existence in the invisible world. Those  present became ‘illumined’; that is to say that, for them, the existence of the invisible world and the immortality of the soul became more certain than the existence of matter in the physical world. And scorning death, they were ready for anything in propagating and defending the doctrines dear to them.”

A feature of Saint-Martin’s system that played an important role in its development was that, as well as group meetings and initiations, individual members were permitted to confer personal initiations on whomever they chose. Whether or not those concerned lived up to it, (and who is to tell?) they had the right to use the letters S.I. after their names with a triangle of dots, signifying ‘Supérieur Inconnu’ (Higher Unknown One).

Whatever the merits or drawbacks of this system it formed the starting point for the Martinist Order as revived, renewed or invented ( however one wishes to regard it) by Papus. And all apparently the result of a happy coincidence. Augustin Chaboseau (librarian at the Guimet museum), Papus and a couple of friends were in the habit of dining together every Tuesday at a small restaurant on the left bank, and discovered by chance in the course of conversation that both Chaboseau and Papus had been privately initiated in this way, without having thought very much about it at the time, or even since. Chaboseau by his aunt, Mme A. de Boisse-Montemart two years before in 1886, and Papus back in 1882, when he was only 17 years old, by the writer Henri Delaage (1825-1882) who sought to pass it on before he died.

It seems that over the course of years the practice, at any rate with the Chaboseaus, had become almost something of a family tradition. While Papus  said that apart from the letters S.I. and a triangle of dots, no arcane knowledge was passed on to him, due to lack of time apparently, but as a somewhat confused teenager he might not have appreciated it anyway.

On a broader front the system would almost certainly have been responsible for the spread of various forms of Martinist philosophy and practice as the ‘free initiators’ transmitted the ‘Sacrament’ of their Order through France, Germany, Denmark and particularly Russia during the 19th century.

In their biography of Papus the academics Marie-Sophie André and Christophe Beaufils cast their doubts on Papus’ claim to this initiation, but I am quite prepared to accept it. Apart from the fact of Papus’ basic rough and ready honesty, it has that ambience of unlikelihood that tends to go with coincidental facts that come up with from time to time in esoteric matters. I could match it with some even more unlikely! And it certainly produced results, for within three years l’Ordre Martiniste was founded.

What I also find convincing is the remarkable charge that it put into Papus himself, as shown by a trilogy of books he produced in 1895, 1899 and 1902,  called Illuminisme en France 1774-1803. They are detailed and scholarly works, with much first hand evidence from letters of the three characters who originated what became the Martinist movement – Martines de Pasqually, Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin and Jean-Baptiste Willermoz (who did much to develop a Masonic form of the system).  In these books one senses a sea change and greater depth and discipline in the writing of Papus. So it was not entirely the influence of Maître Philippe that was responsible for what some regarded as Papus’ religious reorientation in the latter part of his life. The experience of running an ambulance unit on the Western Front may well have had something to do with that.

Certainly from his detailed quotations from Pasqually’s esoteric instructions to his students  we realise something of Saint-Martin’s concern about complication. Nor does there seem to be much differentiation between magic and mysticism.  Most of the invocations are taken from standard prayers of the Roman Catholic church. The requirements are very detailed, to be performed in a rigorous and formal way within a complex system of magic circles and six-rayed stars, that can take at least two hours to perform, much of the time prostrate, and with particular regard to the positioning of a large number of candles, accompanied by the preparation of a complex mixture of incense. The occasions close to the Autumnal and Vernal Equinoxes are on days calculated from the rising or setting of the moons of March and September. And when it comes to formal group rituals a high standard is obviously expected, as can be judged from the catechisms of each degree, which in the lowest, of Apprentice, consist of 99 questions and answers, some of them quite detailed, that will need to have been committed to memory. There follow the degrees of Companion, Particular Master, Elect Master, Grand Master (also called Great Architect), Grand Elect of Zorobabel, (or Knights of the East).  The latter character, Zorobabel, for those unfamiliar with the Old Testament, was leader of the chosen people on their return from exile and the rebuilding the Temple.
In much of this we find ourselves involved with an Old Testament based symbolism that can have a secular (such as restoration of the monarchy amongst others) as well as a spiritual interpretation. There was continuing controversy during the 19th century, with Eliphas Levi as well as Papus each involved in turn, as to whether Masonry was an esoteric or a secular system. Indeed the latter seemed the majority view in France, with the words Grand Architect of the Universe being formally abandoned by a leading authority.  A pretty big baby being poured out with the bath water in the esoteric view!

The newly formed Ordre Martiniste seems to have got under way in 1887, when a few S.I. initials start to appear behind names and rumours of a lodge meeting and by 1891 a Supreme Council of a dozen members was in place, with the familiar names of Charles Barlet, Chamuel, Paul Sédir, Jules Lejay, Montière, Stanislas de Guaita, Paul Adam, Jaques Burget, Maurice Barrès and Josephin Péledan, the latter two soon resigning and replaced by Marc Haven and Victor-Émile Michelet; and of which Papus was elected President for life.

 A life that came to an end in 1916.